Opposition seeks to overturn Wild Rivers Declaration in Cape York
Posted on Tuesday, 12 January 2010
OPPOSITION SEEKS TO OVERTURN WILD RIVERS DECLARATION IN
It’s my intention to introduce private member’s legislation as soon as parliament resumes in order to overturn the Queensland Government’s Wild Rivers Act, at least in so far as it impacts on Cape York.
Apart from education, economic development is the key to real progress for Aboriginal people. The Queensland Government says that it supports a better life for Aboriginal people but it has effectively locked them out of their land by making economic development on Cape York almost prohibitive through over regulation and red tape. Very few Cape York people or organisations have the tens of thousands of dollars needed to penetrate this legislative and regulatory jungle.
The Queensland Government has made Wild Rivers declarations for Cape York despite the opposition of most local indigenous people. Noel Pearson, in fact, resigned last year from the Cape York Institute in order to campaign against the Wild Rivers Act. My legislation won’t prevent the declaration of new national parks on Cape York but will aim to permit ecologically sustainable development.
Under section 51 (xxvi) of the Constitution, the Commonwealth can make laws relating to “people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws”. Such laws can be geographically confined in their operation. My legal advice is that this power would support Commonwealth legislation to overturn or to limit the operation of the Wild Rivers Act in Cape York. I will be working with the parliamentary clerks and with my parliamentary colleagues to have such legislation ready in early February.
In making the historic apology, Prime Minister Rudd said that “unless the great symbolism of reconciliation is accompanied by an even greater substance, it is little more than a clanging gong”. On April 3 last year, the Rudd Government subscribed to the International Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples providing for, amongst other things, the “right to own, use, develop and control (their) lands”. Paradoxically, on that very same day, the Bligh Labor Government effectively blocked Aboriginal people from developing their land in the catchments of the Archer, Stewart and Lockhart rivers in Cape York.
A national government which fails to become involved in a serious problem of a state government’s making, where it has ample capacity to do so, becomes complicit in the original error. Where the Commonwealth has the constitutional authority, intervention is possible. Where a state’s failure is sufficiently grave or far reaching, intervention arguably becomes necessary.
If the Rudd Government is serious about Aboriginal peoples’ rights, it will make time for my bill to be debated and voted upon; or it will take action of its own that will have similar effect.
Source: TONY ABBOTT